Rugby Union: Yates ready for new chapter

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THE ENGLAND prop Kevin Yates begins his rugby rehabilitation today after serving a six-month ban for a biting incident that shocked rugby. But Yates, on the Bath bench for the visit of Wasps, admits: "There is no point in me being bitter about it."

Despite denying the allegation, Yates was found guilty by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary board of biting the ear of the London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn during a Tetley's Bitter Cup tie last January.

"People are always going to talk about it, and I am always going to be stuck with it," said the 25-year-old front row. "But I want to put the whole business behind me and get back playing rugby."

The Leicester manager, Dean Richards, has paid the England utility back Austin Healey a glowing compliment as the Tigers prepare to greet Harlequins, now led by the former All Black Zinzan Brooke.

By his own admission, Leicester's scrum-half Healey didn't enjoy life under the Bob Dwyer regime at Welford Road, but appears to have found new enthusiasm. "He's got outstanding ability," Richards said, "he is working extremely hard and it's almost as if we have seen a totally different Austin during pre-season."

John Mitchell, the Sale coach, admits he is worried about the trip to Harlequins' Stoop Memorial Ground, where newly-promoted London Scottish now play. "We don't know a lot about them," he said. "They will be really up for their first game at home."

Away from Premiership action, rebel clubs Cardiff and Swansea continue life in exile after quitting the Welsh Premier Division. A proposed series of unsanctioned friendlies kick off with Cardiff's visit to Bedford, whose players yesterday voted against strike action over unpaid wages, and Swansea hosting West Hartlepool at St Helens.

The row at Bedford centres on Frank Warren, the club chairman and boxing promoter, delaying salary payments by two weeks, causing players to threaten a playing boycott ahead of today's game.

Warren has threatened to sack outspoken players, even though they withdrew their threat to strike.

"Reports that players are refusing to play are untrue," Warren said. "If any player has made such ill-advised comments, with the potential adverse effect on the gate and income for that game, then we will have to consider whether he has any future at the club."